How to Fix Yahoo

Yahoo’s so-so earnings last week were hardly eventful enough to distract most digital industry insiders from the more juicy news coming out of the company.

The recent sudden departures of Hilary Schneider, evp of Yahoo’s Americas region, Jimmy Pitaro, the company’s well-regarded general manager and vp of media, and David Ko, Yahoo’s former svp, audience, still had many buzzing—what exactly is going on over there?

Adding to the confusion is the prominent role of former Microsoft exec Blake Irving, who became Yahoo’s chief product officer in May. A few weeks ago Irving was vilified in the blogosphere for butchering a question about what Yahoo actually is.

Many ex-Yahoos wonder why Irving—a product person—has such a prominent role just below CEO Carol Bartz when a guy like Pitaro did not—especially at a company whose strength is media. As one former exec put it, “It’s like a company at war with itself.”

So we asked the question: Does Yahoo need a new owner or leadership?

“I don’t think they need new leadership. [Yahoo CEO] Carol Bartz is going through the process of changing the culture and methodology of the company, which is a strength of hers. What Yahoo doesn’t have is a transformational idea. They need to find that.”
—Mark Cuban, chairman, CEO and president of HDNet and owner of the Dallas Mavericks

“I’m clearly biased here given my Yahoo roots, but I believe there are 600 million reasons each month why Yahoo can and will remain a productive, profitable and growing enterprise. Yahoo will leverage its unique advantages—their products still represent a fundamental part of people’s everyday digital lives—and they have a 15-year track record of trust from their users. That goodwill gives Yahoo every chance to build a dynamic new chapter.” —David Katz, founder and CEO,

“What they need to do is become a better communicator. My complaint is that they haven’t been very clear about who they are or what they’ve accomplished under Carol Bartz, who is clearly a smart person.”
—Ed Montes, CEO of Adnetik and former Yahoo exec

“They’ve got a great audience. Yahoo News is a huge brand. Yahoo Finance—people live by that. But they have a monetization problem. When I listen to their earnings calls, they claim that advertisers like their scale, their science and their art, but they really don’t have art. They have banners. Their sales reflect that. So that’s their missing link.”
—David Payne, president and CEO, ShortTail Media; and former svp, gm of

“Does Yahoo want to make using the Internet easier and more convenient by pulling the key pieces together in one easy-to-use service [with a] unified or focused navigation as their primary service? Or do they want to provide and be known for specific proprietary services? They still have a large audience and can probably succeed at either. But, it’s hard to get momentum without clear focus.” —Bob Pittman, MTV founder, former AOL COO and co-founder of the The Pilot Group

“It’s unclear what direction they want to go in. I’d probably say they should go more media because of their brand strength. They need to be No. 1 a consumer company.”

—Carolyn Everson, Microsoft’s cvp, global ad sales and strategy

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(Cuban picture credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)